The scientific tourist #149 — Glamorous Glennis

The first airplane to fly faster than the speed of sound, Chuck Yeager’s Bell X-1:

Bell X-1 Glamorous Glennis

On October 14, 1947, this rocket-powered aircraft was dropped from the bomb bay of a B-29 bomber, and used its 4-chamber rocket engine to achieve a speed of 700 miles per hour (1,127 kph) at an altitude of 43,000 ft (13,000 m). This equates to Mach 1.06 — a big step forward in a time when some flight engineers still thought that a human could never break the “sound barrier.” But given that the X-1’s shape was patterned after that of a .50 caliber (12.7 mm) machine gun bullet (known to be stable in supersonic flight), surpassing Mach 1 was only a matter of time. Still, after his feat Yeager radioed “I’m still wearing my ears and nothing else fell off, neither.”

Glamorous Glennis now hangs in the “Milestones of Flight” gallery in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum — directly inside the main entrance off the mall.

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